Thursday, 21 January 2016

Understanding the ancient Celts and their art: the psychology of early Celtic art, part eleven

Jacobsthal' s ECA Vol. 1 of 2, 1969 (last) edition
Less than pristine, ex library, I bought the set for $300 about
twenty years ago.
The psychology of early Celtic art perhaps would be better stated as the psychologies of early Celtic art: apart, even, from the personal psychologies of each of the artists, there is the psychology of the tenets of Celtic art. In modern terms, we might equate this to the psychology of the Academy, but instead of the board of artists who had reached a certain status in more recent academies, the Celtic artistic academies would have been under the ultimate control of the Druids as was every aspect of the society at the time. If we take a regional view of early Celtic art, the collective consciousness of each region must be taken into consideration: societies were more cosmopolitan than we might imagine and the Celtic areas in northern Italy were undoubtedly the most cosmopolitan of all. There, a Celtic man might have an Etruscan wife and their "native" (if such a word is even appropriate) lifestyles would be mingled with the Greek. Even back in Gaul, each region would have had its influences going back at least as far as the Neolithic. The idea of a "pure" culture is something symptomatic of the totalitarian mind, whether it wants to prop up what it puts forward as its own culture, or destroy that of another's. I doubt that we could find a pure culture even in the remotest and least explored part of the Amazon jungle.

Apart from the endemic aspects of the psychology of early Celtic art, we have the psychologies of the studies of early Celtic art starting with the very phrase: "Early Celtic art". These, too, can be broken down  personally, regionally, professionally and by status. Most curious of all is that you will not find, through Google, the contents of the book which created the path that all studies of early Celtic art would take. As the book was out of print before the Internet and even the invention of the first personal computer you will not find the "Look inside this book" previews we like to see on or the offers of the first pages free on an ebook site. The only way you can order the book is through a used-book seller who will, at best, show you the cover. The two book set is still fairly expensive, even in the same condition as mine, but you might find odd volumes bought separately might be cheaper. The first edition of 1944 is going to be much more, though. Right now, there are only six listings for the title on Abebooks, but those include Mayer Schapiro's and Sheppard Frere's copies. The World Catalogue of Libraries listings are far from complete and list only a few copies, but you should find the title in most university and art college libraries, though public library copies will be fairly rare.

I find it very interesting that I have never seen an example of early Celtic art offered for sale which referenced Jacobsthal in its listing. Perhaps this is why I have been able to obtain a number of are and important pieces for very little money. Some of them were not even correctly identified as to their culture!

It would be impossible to review Jacobsthal without presenting its contents so I will end for today with a couple of fairly low res, photos of my copy. An Internet first! (who would want to buy a book for about $300 without knowing what it contained?). Tomorrow, we start to look at the way Jacobsthal looked at the subject, how his organization of the material reflected that (or failed to do so), and how it formed the base for what followed.

Jacobsthal contents 1 (fair use)
(click to enlarge)
Jacobsthal contents 2 (fair use)
(click to enlarge)

John's Coydog Community page

No comments:

Post a Comment